Google's Waymo self-driving car division has launched legal action against Uber and its Otto subsidiary, claiming that employees at the ride-sharing company have stolen designs, patent details and other information from the search giant.

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In a detailed post on Medium about the matter, the allegations by Waymo centre around Anthony Levandowski, who in February 2016 co-founded Otto, an autonomous vehicle technology company that was later bought out by Uber.

Prior to this Levandowski worked at Google for just shy of nine years, and spent time working on the company's then unnamed self-driving car project.

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Waymo says that Levandowski, six weeks before quitting the firm, download 9.7 gigabytes worth of data from the company's servers, including roughly 14,000 files that detailed the design of hardware systems required for self-driving vehicles, in particular its LIDAR units.

According to Google, subsequent investigations have shown that other former Waymo employees, who are now working at Otto and Uber, have taken proprietary data with them to their new jobs.

All of this, Waymo claims, is part of a systematic attempt by Uber to steal its self-driving vehicle technology.

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In its filing with the US District Court in San Francisco, Waymo is asking for a jury trial, and is seeking to stop Otto and Uber from using its allegedly stolen technology, as well as unspecified damages and restitution.

Google was tipped off that its intellectual property might have been stolen when a supplier, possibly by accident, sent diagrams of Otto's circuit boards for its LIDAR sensors. Upon inspection they looked suspiciously liked Google's own design, which the company spent "thousands of hours" and "millions of dollars" developing.